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Colby College. Art Dept.


In March 1868 a reviewer for the Commercial Advertiser described a small painting on view in Seymour Joseph Guy’s Tenth Street studio in Manhattan. It depicted a young girl preparing for bed and holding around her waist “a gaudy skirt of a dress, its folds, draped behind her, forming a train. From her shoulders a single garment hangs loosely, disclosing her neck and finely rounded shoulders.” The painting, originally titled The Votary (or Votaress) of Fashion, is now known as Making a Train. Visually complex, beautifully painted, and disturbing in its sensual presentation of a prepubescent female body, Making a Train has long intrigued scholars of American art and culture. Recently, the painting’s inclusion in the exhibition American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765–1915 confirmed its position in the canon of American art. Concealed behind the scholarly narrative of this picture’s Americanness, however, is the fact that Guy—who was born and trained in England and arrived in the United States at the age of thirty—used an artistic vocabulary drawn from British painting.


Originally published: American Art 25 (2011), pp. 96-111.



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